Tag Archives: Portland Oregon

There’s More to Thai Food Than Pad Thai

I’m braced for a substantial lineup at *Pok Pok, Andy Ricker’s legendary, James Beard Foundation-award-winning Portland restaurant. But when I arrive on a sultry mid-afternoon, there are lots of empty tables, and I’m whisked straight into the air-conditioned bar. There’s not a lot of character here. The emphasis is squarely on the amazing food.

Pok Pok Thai restaurant in Portland, Oregon. T...

Pok Pok Thai restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The Oregonian restaurant of the year 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pok Pok features innovative, northern and northeastern Thailand dishes such as smoky charcoal grilled eggplant salad, sweet pork belly curry and lemongrass-stuffed game hen, with an average price of around $14. But I take a more conventional route with the signature Vietnamese-style hot wings, marinated in fish sauce and sugar, deep fried and tossed with garlic, more fish sauce and my choice of spicy chile flakes. To say they’re the best chicken wings I’ve ever had would do them an injustice. They’re enormous (who knew chickens had such big wings?)—sweet and spicy, meaty and messy. I go through nearly a napkin for each of the six wings, then mop up with a couple of wet naps. A spoon and a fork are recommended for this style of Thai food, but in this case I’m all hands.

Fantastic, monster chicken wings with an Asian twist at Pok Pok

Fantastic, monster chicken wings with an Asian twist at Pok Pok

On a side note, a look at Pok Pok’s menu opens up an unfamiliar, fantastic world of Thai cuisine. You won’t find pad thai, green curry or tom kha soup here. That’s because those dishes are all part of the southern Thai offerings that dominate Thai menus pandering to the North American masses. Pok Pok and its offshoots are Andy Ricker’s attempts to bring authentic northern and northeastern Thai cuisine to U.S. palates.

Here’s hoping it becomes a more widespread trend. Because there is more to Thai than pad thai.

Pok Pok
3226 SE Division Street, Portland, Oregon
Daily 11:30 am-10 pm
Pok Pok on Urbanspoon

Portland’s Wild, Weird, Wonderful Food Carts

Sarah serves up an amazing egg/French toast concoction at her Egg Carton outlet

Sarah serves up an amazing egg/French toast concoction at her Egg Carton outlet

There are a staggering 700 food carts in Portland. It may be the food truck capital of the known universe, though in this Oregon city they are stationary and organized in pods throughout the city. I’ll write about this unique food culture in more detail at a later date.

But for now, suffice to say there are some free-spirited, independent cart owners experimenting with some mad food combinations to come up with some amazingly creative, cheap, excellent cuisine. This may be the future of dining out, especially for frugal road fooders looking for something new and exciting. Needless to say, it’s worth the long drive alone. I may never leave this nourishing city.

Got time for only one food-cart breakfast and can’t decide between something eggy or sweet? At *The Egg Carton, enjoy the best of both worlds by ordering the Famous FoPo Christo, a combination of, get this, fried egg, bacon chunks, Tillamook cheddar, spicy mustard and strawberry jam, sandwiched between two slices of French toast. Believe me, it tastes a hell of a lot better than it sounds. The French toast alone, featuring thick slices of Texas toast, is more custardy tender than most conventional kinds I’ve eaten. And the jammy mixture in the middle somehow works. Trust me, just look at the picture and then order it. The Ronald is another popular egg-and-cheese choice along the same lines, this time with a cart-made sausage patty, an English muffin and maple syrup.

French toast/egg sandwich at Egg Carton. You know you want one

French toast/egg sandwich at Egg Carton. You know you want one

The Egg Carton
5205 SE Foster Road (Foster Food Cart Pod)
Thursday, Friday and Monday 8:30 am-2 pm, weekends 9 am-3 pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday

I’m waiting for my margherita to come out of the wood-fired oven at the Pyro Pizza food cart. And I must say, it’s a wonderful, 12-inch pie, with a thin, chewy crust, fresh mozza and big basil leaves, all for a ridiculously cheap $7; I’ve paid three times as much for a lot less elsewhere.

$7 for this magnificent margherita pie at Pyro Pizza

$7 for this magnificent margherita pie at Pyro Pizza

Anyway, while I’m waiting, I wander around the southeast Portland food-cart pod and pass PBJ’s Grilled sandwiches. Not bloody likely, I think. But then out pops owner Keena Tallman. “I’m cute and little,” she says, in reference to her name. With a big personality. She’s soon talking me into the merits of grilled sandwiches featuring house-made nut butters paired with jams. While I feebly protest about my impending pizza arrival, she makes me a sample of her award-winning Oregonian—a medley of challah bread, Oregon hazelnut butter, Rogue Creamery blue cheese and house-made marion berry jam (duck is an add on). As I’m wolfing down this “my God, how can this be so good?” grilled sandwich, Keena passes me a little piece of incredible crispy coconut shrimp (it goes with the Spicy Thai sandwich). “Deliciously addictive,” the cart sign says. I’ll say. I’m nut butter in her hands.

Keena assembling my Oregonian sandwich at PBJ's Grilled

Keena assembling my Oregonian sandwich at PBJ’s Grilled

SE 12 Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard cart pod (also at 919 NW 23 Street)
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am-7 pm